Should You Trust The New York Times and Its Official Sources?

“The evidence of a possible Libyan link, first reported publicly this week by the French newsmagazine L’Express, was confirmed and detailed by American officials involved in the investigation of the Pan Am bombing.”

MICHAEL WINES — The New York Times (October 9 1990)

Howard R Teicher proposes “to shame France into joining in some action… White House might have to go around the [French] civilian government and rely on military to military channels… as political channels have failed earlier this year.”

“Given the stated desire of some French general officers to cooperate with us against Gadhafi, we might actively encourage them to sell the proposal to their civilian leadership.”

Around this day – DDI Richard Kerr and Tom Twetten are sent to the White House to explain what the CIA could do “to apply psychological pressure on Gaddafi”.

Twetten said it would be no problem for the CIA “to plant false stories in publications abroad” to unnerve Gadaffi.

National Security Council  Letter — Operation VECTOR ( August 7 1986)

“Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. I will add that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”

Thomas Jefferson — Reply to John Norvell (1807)

Michael Wines is a national correspondent for The New York Times and writes about voting and other election-related issues. Since coming to The Times in 1988, he has covered the Justice Department, the American intelligence community, the White House, the 1992 presidential campaign, Congress, the environment and, for nearly 15 years, news and life in Russia and surrounding states, southern Africa and China. Before coming to The Times, he was a reporter in the Washington bureau of The Los Angeles Times. [NYT]

On October 9 1990, Michael Wines penned a very important story. According to American Government investigators involved in the Pan Am 103 inquiry (Lockerbie), Libyan intelligence agents were the culprits who had assembled and planted the bomb that destroyed the plane.

In a recent post — LOCKERBIE — Dirty Tricks & Tribulations in Senegal — I provided all the documents related to the February 1988 arrests of two Libyan citizens in Dakar: Police records, interviews, precognitions, CIA cables, decisions of justice, etc… These original documents allow us to check unambiguously the veracity of the information reported by Michael Wines in his crucial piece.

The conclusion is as inescapable as it is horrifying. Nearly every single piece of information in this NYT article is factually mistaken. Moreover, the reasoning is deeply flawed.

Follow us on Twitter: @Intel_Today


RELATED POST: PT/35(b) — An Overview of the Lockerbie Case

RELATED POST: PT/35(b) — The Most Expensive Forgery in History [Lockerbie]

RELATED POST: Lockerbie — MEBO TELECOM and the Story of the MST-13 Timers

RELATED POST: PT/35(b) — How was the Lockerbie Key Evidence Forged? [UPDATE & Comments]

A Fairy Tale

On September 29 1990, Xavier Raufer broke the news of a possible Libyan link in the French newsmagazine L’Express.

American officials involved in the investigation of the Pan Am bombing confirmed and detailed the story to Michael Wines.

The new evidence –described as circumstantial — centers on the detonator for the Pan Am bomb, part of which had been recovered. This infamous fragment will become known as PT/35(b).

In his NYT piece, Wines reports the following ‘facts’:

A — Scottish and American investigators have concluded that the recovered portion is identical to 10 timers that were seized from two Libyan intelligence agents in the West African nation of Senegal in February 1988 (…)

B — According to accounts in the French press in 1988 that were confirmed by American officials, the Libyan detonators seized in Senegal differ fundamentally from those used by Mr. Jibril’s Popular Front in West Germany.

C — The Popular Front detonators include both a timer and an altimeter, insuring [sic] that a bomb will not explode until after an aircraft has flown for a predetermined time at a specific altitude. The less sophisticated Libyan detonators have only a timer.

D — On Air Afrique Flight — The Libyans who were arrested in Dakar in 1988, identified only by their aliases as Mohammed al-Marzouk and Mansour Omran Saber, had left the Libyan Embassy in Benin and were on an Air Afrique flight to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, when they were arrested on Feb. 20, during a layover in the Senegalese capital.

E — In their luggage, Dakar police found nine kilograms of Semtex plastic explosive, which is similar to that used in the Pan Am blast, several blocks of TNT and 10 timer-activated detonators.

F — United States officials said today that Senegalese officials released the two Libyans on June 16, 1988, barely six months before the Pan Am bombing, over the protests of American diplomats.

G — The Missing Explosives — It could not be learned what happened to the explosives and timers seized in the Dakar airport.

Analysis of the Facts

The Senegal MST-13 timer

Statement A : ” investigators have concluded that the recovered portion is identical to 10 timers that were seized from two Libyan intelligence agents … ”

This statement is twice mistaken. Firstly, only one timer was seized in Dakar. Secondly, no comparison was ever made between the fragment found at Lockerbie and this timer because neither the CIA officers nor anyone else examined or photographed the inside of the Dakar timer. Also, there was no evidence linking the two Libyans to the luggage containing the timer and the explosive. [See Lockerbie verdict.]

Statement B : ” the Libyan detonators seized in Senegal differ fundamentally from those used by Mr. Jibril’s Popular Front in West Germany.”

Wines is obviously confusing the detonators and the timer. In Senegal, the Police confiscated 9 detonators and one electronic timer. Jibril’s group did not use timers to activate bombs in airplane but a barometer. [See below]

Statement C : “The Popular Front detonators include both a timer and an altimeter, insuring that a bomb will not explode until after an aircraft has flown for a predetermined time at a specific altitude. The less sophisticated Libyan detonators have only a timer.”

Totally incorrect. Again Jibril used an altimeter/barometer in conjunction with a simple circuit to generate a delay before firing the detonators. The time of this crude device — known as ‘ice cube’ — can not be adjusted as it depends on the exact value of the electronic components chosen. Also, the inside of the plane is pressurised so that the altimeter/barometer will read the same value once the plane is above a certain level. Actually, the Libyan timer was designed by a Swiss company — MEBO AG — and is by far more sophisticated.

Statement D : ” identified only by their aliases as Mohammed al-Marzouk and Mansour Omran Saber (…) when they were arrested on Feb. 20, during a layover in the Senegalese capital.”

These names are NOT aliases but their real names! In fact Mansour Saber testified — as a Crown witness — at the Lockerbie trial. [Marzouk had a Senegalese passport. More about this later…] They were not arrested during a layover. Dakar was their final destination. Notice that Wines did not even check the Flight number! It is RK 301.

Statement E : “In their luggage, Dakar police found nine kilograms of Semtex plastic explosive, which is similar to that used in the Pan Am blast, several blocks of TNT and 10 timer-activated detonators.”

Again, that is false. The luggage contained 4 kg of SEMTEX (two blocks of 2 kg of SEMTEX) and 1.6 kg of TNT (4 blocks of 0.400 kg of TNT) as well as one timer and 9 detonators.

Statement F : “officials said today that Senegalese officials released the two Libyans on June 16, 1988”

They were actually released on June 15 1988.

Statement G : “The Missing Explosives — It could not be learned what happened to the explosives and timers seized in the Dakar airport.”

FALSE! The explosives were destroyed on October 9 1989. Again, there was only ONE timer. That timer was not destroyed but there is some hint about where it went… More about this later.

Missing Information

Ahmed Khalifa Niasse with French President Nicolas Sarkozy

The arrest of the two Libyans in February 1988 at Dakar was certainly not a routine police operation. According to both CIA documents and the biography of the then Senegal President Abdu Diouf, it was a trap. (‘Piège’ is the word used by Diouf in French.)

Both the French (DGSE) and US (CIA) foreign Intelligence Agencies were ‘monitoring’ the operation.

Jean Collin — Secretary-General to the Senegal Government and Minister of State 1981-90 — was personally directly involved in this operation. He provided a “false passport” for one of the Libyans. (He actually signed the passport himself.)

Ahmed Khalifa Niasse — their  Senegalese accomplice — was reporting to Jean Collin and in turn Collin was informing the CIA, and was almost certainly working with the DGSE.

There is no evidence that the luggage — and all it defective content — belonged to the Libyans. Thus, it must have been Niasse who brought it.

What about the timer? What possibly happened to it? For what is worth, Collin stated that  he was “convinced that the timer discovered in Senegal could not have been used for terrorist purposes.”

According  to confidential notes uncovered by the SCCRC, it was known to D&G  (Dumfries & Galloway Police) that Jean Collin had commented that the timer had been given to “an intelligence agency”. There is some reason to believe that he meant the CIA.

The SCCRC Commission requested from D&G consent to disclose that section of the confidential notes but this was refused.

From Anonymous Sources to Reports and then Books

In his book ‘On the Trail of Terror’, David Leppard repeats all these inaccuracies and add a few of his own.

“Vincent Cannistraro, the head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism centre who lead the American intelligence investigation into the bombing, told LICC that the assessment indicated possible similarities with a batch of ten timing devices recovered from two men arrested in Senegal, West Africa, in early 1988.”

Again, the story of TEN timers is not true. There was one timer.

“Travelling under the aliases of Mohamed al-Marzouk and Mansour Omran Saber, the two men had been arrested as they came off (…)”

Marzouk and Saber are their real name. In fact, Saber testified at the Lockerbie trial as a Crown witness.

“Both men possessed Lebanese passports. They were carrying arms and explosives – including 9 kilos of SEMTEX-H, several blocks of TNT high explosive, and, most significantly for the Lockerbie investigators, ten time-delay detonators.”

Neither had a Lebanese passport. The 9 kg of SEMTEX lie is repeated and there was one — not ten — timer.

“The two men had been in Benin, attached temporarily tot he local Libyan People’s Bureau . Another suspect, a Senegalese man, had been arrested two days earlier on the Senegal-Mali border after trying to enter the country by train.(..) They were later released without charge on 16 June 1988.”

Neither of them were attached to the local Libyan People’s Bureau in Benin. Both came directly from Libya.

Niasse, the Senegalese informant, was not arrested two days earlier while trying to enter the country by train. Niasse was arrested with the Libyans at Dakar airport.

None of them were released on June 16. Niasse was released on March 25 and the Libyans on June 15 1988.

“In August [1990] Stuart Henderson, the new senior investigative officer, sent officers to Senegal to retrieve photographs and control samples of the timers found at Dakar. When they returned, the evidence was immediately dispatched to Hayes at RARDE.”

DI William Williamson and DS Michael Langford-Johnson interview Babacar Gaye, a Senegalese “Colonel de Gendarmerie” in July 18 1990, NOT in August. Since the only timer ‘caught’ in this operation had disappeared, they obviously did not bring back control samples!

“The comparison did not take long. When he got the confirmation, Hayes looked up from his microscope elated. (…) Hayes’s report to Orr confirmed that the circuit board for the Lockerbie bomb was made by the same Swiss company that had manufactured the timers found on Saber and Marzouk at Dakar airport. (..) It was the crowning glory of RARDE’s forensic inquiry.”

The timer (ONE timer) was never found on either Marzouk or Saber. It was inside luggage that was never linked to them. That is why the charges were dropped.

And not only was there no sample to examine under his microscope, but Dr Hayes was not even working at RARDE in the summer of 1990. In truth, Hayes had retired in late 1989.

And the Lies are repeated by ‘Lockerbie experts’, Legal Scholars and Finally the  Lockerbie ‘Zeist’ Judges Themselves!

The second Togo MST-13 timer recovered from the French authorities

By now, scholars and experts in ‘terrorism Studies’ read such books written by a distinguished journalist which refers to other journalists’ stories published in prestigious newspapers and quoting US official sources.

No wonder everyone take these ‘facts’ as historical events. The end result is that even the judges were utterly confused. In their opinion, the Lockerbie Trial judges wrote:

“[52] The timer recovered in Togo which, as we have said, was one of two, was considered by the witness Richard Sherrow to be identical to one which was discovered in Dakar, Senegal, on 20 February 1988 within a briefcase found on board a passenger aircraft which had arrived at the airport there from Cotonou in Benin.

It was recovered in October 1999 by DI Williamson from the French Ministry of Justice in Paris but was not examined forensically.  It cannot therefore be said whether its circuit board was single or double-sided. […]”

This is simply not true. The timer given to DI Williamson by the French Ministry of Justice was the second timer (unboxed) allegedly recovered in Togo by BATB Richard Sherrow in September 1986.

The SCCRC noticed the error in their report.

“8.105 — It is worth noting that in terms of paragraph 52 of its judgment the trial court appears to have confused the Senegal timer, which was never recovered by the investigating authorities, with the second Togo timer obtained from the French authorities in 1999.”

Pure Nonsense

From the “Chronology of PT/35(b) – Part III”, we have learned the following:

“15 June 1990 — According to the FD-302 [Intel Today : A form used by FBI agents to report or summarize the interviews that they conduct] of Tom Thurman that is provided with the police report, he received K1 [Intel Today : K1 is a timer allegedly found in Togo in September 1986.] from Richard Sherrow of the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms Lab on this date.

This position is clearly inaccurate, as was discovered during the precognition process. In fact Sherrow gave the timer K1 to the CIA in late 1987 and it was in CIA possession until June 1990.

John Orkin of the CIA was the person who identified the similarity between PT/35(b) and K1, not Thurman.”

During this meeting, CIA John Orkin* [Real Name: Jack Christie] told Tom Thurman who had manufactured the MST-13 Timers.

“On page 41 of Production 285 there is reference to MEBO. I recall asking [to CIA John ORKIN*] who was MEBO. (…) He then showed me Production 285 at page 41.” (See Thurman Defence-Precognition)

Thurman leaves the meeting with the “Solution” of Lockerbie. He now has in his own hands the timer (K1). His Administration gives him the authorization to “front for the CIA”.  [The then Director of the CIA – William H. Webster – was the previous Director of the FBI, a unique situation in history.]

Still, Thurman needs a plausible explanation. How did he link K1 to MEBO? Obviously, “I was told so by the CIA” does not cut it. [Thurman admitted during precognition that he lied at the Grand Jury because the role of the CIA should not be revealed! That is subtle or what?]

Well, that is where the NYMPH quartz comes in. He KNOWS MEBO built K1. And thus, MEBO must have bought the components. The NYMPH quartz was supplied by COMPONA AG and manufactured by SARONIX. All he has to do is to connect the dots. In reverse mode…

The FBI Report dated 20/08/1990 reads:

“Investigation at saronix, Palo Alto, California has determined that the NYMPH (trademark) NYPO 49-12 Quartz Crystal has been manufactured since mid-1983, by Kony Precision Company, Limited, Inchon, South Korea.

Officials at Saronix, after reviewing photographs of the quartz crystal utilized in specimen K-1, advised that the crystal was not manufactured until mid- 1986, because the crystal had a gray vinyl wrapping.

The equipment for this vinyl wrapping process was not installed at the manufacturing facility until some time in mid-1986.”

With this information, Thurman can narrow the number of companies that could supply the NYMPH quartz to just a few; 12 to be precise. His Report reads:

“A review of the sales records from Saronix, period from June, 1986 (mid-1986) until September, 1986 (the month when the electronic timer was recovered in Africa), has determined that 5,960 crystals were shipped to twelve customers.

The following is a summary of sales of the crystal, by company, for this time period.”

And of course, one of these 12 customers is COMPONA AG. All the pieces fit in place. Thurman can already picture himself as Time Magazine “Man of the Year”!

However, we do know that the NYMPH quartz were bought by MEBO from COMPONA AG in August and November 1985. According to Court documents, the MST-13 Timers were supplied to Libya in late 85 to early 86.


Someone caught the anachronism. The credibility of Thurman’s beautiful story had been destroyed. He will not be the “Sherlock” of Lockerbie.

“I received a call in August or September 1990 that someone had gone to MEBO in Switzerland with a photograph and they had identified the fragment as coming from them so any enquiries then stopped and there were no reasons to continue with them”

Of course, we now know that his explanation is not true either. The truth is that MI6 told the UK investigators about MEBO. (See LOCKERBIE: THE LONG ROAD TO MEBO )

The SCCRC Report is unable to explain why the investigation lost about 3 months from June 15  to September 19 1990?

“A matter which remains somewhat unclear is why, given that the fragment itself had been compared with the Togo timer at the meeting with the Scottish police and Mr Feraday on 22 June 1990 and that the link between the two had been confirmed, investigations did not immediately focus upon MEBO.”

“In fact enquiries in Switzerland did not commence until September 1990, over two months later.” (SCCRC 8.139)”

“According to Mr Orkin’s Crown precognitions, when he noted the similarity between PT/35(b) and the Togo timer at the meeting he had with Mr Thurman he specifically told Mr Thurman to investigate MEBO. Mr Thurman’s response was said to be that this information was “not good enough to go to trial” and that he would do his own investigation with particular reference to the components on the Togo timer.” (SCCRC 8.140)

Nymphs have been nymphs. Spooks will be spooks. And a dwarf is a dwarf is a dwarf. Thurman will have to settle for ABC World News Tonight “Man of the week”, and then will be “removed from all FBI crime labs and disbarred from acting as an expert witness”. (US Inspector General – 1997 Report)

Who was the Official Source?

Although it cannot be proven, it is almost entirely certain that the source for Xavier Raufer and Michael Wines was none other than former CIA Vincent Cannistraro, aka Mr Libya! There is certainly no doubt that Cannistraro was the source of Leppard’s book.

According to the Guardian:

“In the early 1990s the Lockerbie investigation shifted from the Scottish Borders to the CIA base in America.

The man in charge there was Vincent Cannistraro. Mr Cannistraro had worked with Oliver North in President Reagan’s National Security Council and, Paul Foot and John Ashton argue, he “specialised in the US vendetta against Libya”.

Mr Cannistraro was part of a secret programme to destabilise the Libyan regime which culminated in the US bombing of Libya in 1986.

He retired from the CIA in September 1990 but by then had helped lay the foundations for a completely new approach to the bombing investigation, in which the chief suspect was not Iran or Syria, but Libya.”

Debunking Fake News

There is much discussion regarding misinformation and manipulation in the age of social media. The phenomenon is by no mean a product of our time. For decades, intelligence agencies have used mainstream media to plant stories and deceive the readers. [ Those interested in this subject will study the work published by Carl Bernstein: CIA and the Media.]

Clearly, the story reported by Wines, Leppard and others is a farrago of lies. Obviously, these ‘journalists’ merely parroted a few quotes ‘leaked’ to them by a few US officials (CIA)and they did not even bother to check the accuracy of the simplest facts.

Now, let us be realistic. When the CIA leaks some information to the media, they have an agenda. And, to be sure, their agenda is rarely — if ever — the truth.

In leaking this nonsensical story, the Agency was pursuing several goals. The most important appears to be an attempt to bind two events together: Pan Am 103 and UTA 772. Indeed, some of the false information reported about the Lockerbie investigation in Senegal appear to originate from real facts related to the UTA 772 case.

What was the point? I believe that a note written by the DST — a French Intelligence Service at the time — to the French president best explains the goal and consequences of this manipulation.

According to the note, Xavier Raufer published his story in the French newsmagazine L’Express after a short visit to the United States. The DST believes that it was — of course — very convenient for the US to blame Libya — despite the lack of evidence — and ignore the clues pointing to Syria and perhaps Iran, the countries that were until then the main suspects.

The DST observes that Raufer established three new facts, all of them pointing — for the first time — to Libya as the culprit of both Pan Am 103 and UTA 772. The note is categorical: “These facts are false.”

Although the note concludes that these ‘new facts’ are simply fictional, the DST also issues a dire warning to the French President.

If that story gains credibility in the media and becomes the ‘new truth’, we will be forced to revisit our position regarding Libya and Gaddafi.

A few weeks before the Lockerbie indictment, high-level delegations from the US and the UK visited France to convince the Mitterand government  to vote in favour of UN sanctions against Libya.

On 14 November 1991, the Lord Advocate and the acting United States Attorney General jointly announced that they had obtained warrants for the arrest of Abdelbasset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah.

On 27 November 1991, the British and United States Governments issued a joint statement calling on the Libyan government to surrender the two men for trial.

Although Mitterrand was opposed to such sanctions, France voted in favour of Resolution 731 on January 21 1992 and Resolution 748 on 31 March 1992.

On November 11 1993, the Security Council passed resolution 883 that imposed further international sanctions on Libya. All of this was achieved without a trial, let alone a verdict. That was certainly an amazing victory for the CIA.




Should You Trust The New York Times and Its Official Sources?

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